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Suzanna Reiss on Drug Control, Coca-Cola, and Pharmaceuticals

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

Release Date: 07/01/2015

Keith Wailoo on Racial Marketing and the Rise of Menthol Cigarettes show art Keith Wailoo on Racial Marketing and the Rise of Menthol Cigarettes

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

In 2020, George Floyd was killed by police outside a store in Minneapolis known as “the best place to buy menthols.” Of Black Americans who smoke, eighty-percent smoke menthol cigarettes. In this episode, Keith Wailoo explores the history of menthol cigarettes and their marketing to Black Americans. In doing so, he ties together the history of tobacco companies and the disproportionate number of Black deaths at the hands of police violence, COVID-19, and other forms of racial violence and exploitation, giving new meaning to the cry: “I can’t breathe.” 

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Jason Resnikoff on the Automation Discourse and the Meaning of Work show art Jason Resnikoff on the Automation Discourse and the Meaning of Work

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

This month's episode takes a deep dive into the history of work and automation in the post-World War II era. It traces the discourse around automation from its origins in the factory to its wide-ranging implications in political and social life. Countering automation's proponents, who prophesize that robots will soon replace human labor, Jason Resnikoff reveals how the automation discourse has tended to obscure the human beings who continue to labor, often in sped up and intensified manners, alongside machines.

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Gregg Mitman on Firestone's Rubber Empire in Liberia show art Gregg Mitman on Firestone's Rubber Empire in Liberia

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

This month's episode focuses on a popular commodity, namely rubber. Despite consuming a large share of the world's rubber supply, the United States has long relied on the global market to meet American demand for rubber. During the early twentieth-century, this dependence on foreign rubber led the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to the West African nation of Liberia, where the company built one of the largest rubber plantations in the world. What follows is a tale of land expropriation, medical racism, and corporate power that stretches from the 1920s to the 2020s.

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Destin Jenkins on Municipal Debt and Bondholder Power show art Destin Jenkins on Municipal Debt and Bondholder Power

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

Indebtedness, like inequality, has become a ubiquitous condition in the United States. Yet few have probed American cities’ dependence on municipal debt. Focusing on San Francisco, this month's guest, Destin Jenkins, traces the evolving relationship between cities, bondholders, banks, and municipal debt from the Great Depression to the 1980s. In doing so, he sheds new light on the power arrangement at the center of municipal finance, and offers some suggestions on how to contest it.

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Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on Student Loans and Higher Education show art Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on Student Loans and Higher Education

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

It is no secret that the United States is facing a crisis with regards to higher education. In this month's episode, historian Elizabeth Tandy Shermer explains the long history that gave rise to the current situation in which many institutions are struggling financially, and students and their parents are often the ones left to pay the bill with the help of loans.

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Justene Hill Edwards on the Slaves Economy and the Limits of Black Capitalism show art Justene Hill Edwards on the Slaves Economy and the Limits of Black Capitalism

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

In this month's episode, Justene Hill Edwards takes listeners on a journey through the slaves' economy. From bustling urban marketplaces to back-country roads, she reveals the myriad ways enslaved people participated in South Carolina's market economy prior to the Civil War. In doing so, she never loses sight of the limitations of the slaves’ economy, revealing how enslaved peoples’ investments in capitalism, while providing temporary relief, ultimately benefited the very people who denied them freedom.

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Joshua Greenberg on the Rage for Paper Money and Monetary Knowledge in Early America show art Joshua Greenberg on the Rage for Paper Money and Monetary Knowledge in Early America

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

In this month's episode, Joshua Greenberg explores the chaotic and volatile monetary system of early America and the extensive financial knowledge required to navigate it. This monetary know-how was needed not only by financiers and merchants operating at a high-level of the economy, but also by those who may never have stepped foot inside a bank themselves, and yet, were nevertheless compelled to constantly evaluate the value and authenticity of the paper money being handed to them or risk losing out.

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Gabriel Winant on the Rusting of 'Steel City, USA' and the Rise of Healthcare show art Gabriel Winant on the Rusting of 'Steel City, USA' and the Rise of Healthcare

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

Today, healthcare workers account for the largest percentage of U.S. workers. Yet, their power pales in comparison to the unionized industrial workforce that preceded them, and whom it is their job now to care for. In this episode, Gabriel Winant explains how these two worlds--the industrial economy and the post-industrial service economy--came together in 'Steel City, USA,' revealing how the healthcare economy emerged to take advantage of the social hierarchies engendered by the American welfare state.

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Cristina Groeger on Education, Labor, and Inequality in Boston show art Cristina Groeger on Education, Labor, and Inequality in Boston

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

This episode centers on a paradox in contemporary American society, namely the coexistence of high rates of educational achievement alongside growing inequality in the United States. In order to address this paradox, Cristina Groeger takes listeners on a journey back in time to the turn of the twentieth century and explains how it is that education came to replace other forms of training as a major pathway into employment, while revealing the consequences of this transformation, including for labor.

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Ronald Schatz on the Labor Board Vets and the Rise of Industrial-Labor Relations show art Ronald Schatz on the Labor Board Vets and the Rise of Industrial-Labor Relations

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast

In this episode, Ronald Schatz discusses the history of the National War Labor Board vets. Recruited by the U.S. government during WWII to help resolve union-management conflicts, many labor board vets went on to have long and illustrious careers arbitrating conflicts in a wide-range of sectors from the steel industry to the public sector. While not traditional labor activists, the history of the labor board vets offers important lessons for understanding the rise of industrial-labor relations in the U.S.

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More Episodes

Today’s guest discusses the history of the coca leaf and the U.S. drug control regime. Amongst other topics, we discuss the importance of coca to both Coca-Cola and Merck and the pharmaceutical industry. For Suzanna Reiss, this provides a way to interpret the history of capitalism across the mid-twentieth century and after.

 

 

 

Suzanna Reiss is Associate Professor of History at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She is author of We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire. You can read more about her work here.

 

 

 

For our New York area listeners, we will be having a live conversation with our friends from Dissent Magazine’s Belabored Podcast.

 

On July 7th at 7 PM at 61 Local in Brooklyn (61 Bergen St.) we’ll be speaking with Belabored hosts Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen about the histories of labor and capitalism.